Jerry Seinfeld chose not to run, but unfortunately that’s not an option for players at Patriots training camp. Just ask newcomer Cam Newton, who was forced to run a lap after coughing up the football during Monday’s practice session. The subject of making players run laps has been a talking point of late with many dismissing it as antiquated. In particular, first-year coach Joe Judge—the latest in a long line of Belichick protégés—has drawn criticism for his no-nonsense stylings at Giants camp, which many have perceived as a desperate attempt to replicate the “Patriot Way” in East Rutherford. We’ve seen New England alums go this route before, including Matt Patricia, who famously made his team practice outdoors in the dead of winter despite the fact Detroit plays its home games in a dome.
So where does Belichick fall on the raging “running laps as punishment” debate? Well as Belichick often does when asked a question that pertains to football (unlike other discussion topics, which typically render a dismissive grunt or a monotone one-word response), the veteran coach gave a thorough and well-articulated answer.
“When I played, which was a long time ago—and not very well, I might add—I ran my fair share just like everybody else did. I think when I did it, I usually thought about what caused me to do that and what the consequence was,” said Belichick, who is entering his 21st season atop New England’s coaching chain of command. “I’d say it gave me some motivation to try to prevent that from happening again or from making that same mistake again and to be a little more conscious and aware and put more concentration and effort into not making that mistake, whatever it happened to be.”
While it remains to be seen whether the hardnosed tone set by Judge will resonate with Giants players or if they’ll see it as an obnoxious power trip by a rookie head coach, we know Belichick’s approach is genuine. Some may see running laps as an unsophisticated coaching relic from a bygone era, but the 68-year-old Belichick still sees value in it. “When I went to Cleveland, a lot of times I would just send the whole team on a lap,” said Belichick, who also used this technique during his time as a coordinator under Bill Parcells in New York. “Then that way it’s, I’d say, a little more peer pressure on the mistakes because the whole way around the lap everybody’s pretty much giving the business to the guy that caused them to run.”
Belichick acknowledged that punishment laps could sometimes slow down practice, but if it gets the point across, that’s fine by him. “I’m not saying I got all the answers or anything I do is right," said Belichick during his appearance Monday on WEEI. "I try to do what I think works for me and works for our team.” It’s obviously worked pretty well, considering Belichick’s nine Super Bowl appearances including six victories during his time in Foxboro.
The Patriot Way isn’t for everyone—even Tom Brady eventually grew weary of Belichick’s taxing “no days off” mantra before defecting to a much lower-stakes atmosphere in Tampa Bay. But regardless of how outsiders perceive the pioneering methods championed by Belichick and his various coaching outposts around the league (Mike Vrabel and Kliff Kingsbury both played under Belichick while Judge, Patricia, Bill O’Brien and Brian Flores have all served as his assistants at one time or another), there’s no denying his immense influence across the NFL landscape.